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Adventuring in India : the best prepaid data eSIMs and SIM cards in 2022

Travelling in India is a unique adventure. Let's make sure we help you enjoy the experience by staying connected !

Published: Jul 2, 2022

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Photo by Sylwia Bartyzel on Unsplash

They say – once you head to India, you return a changed individual. As the birthplace of major world religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Jainism, it is one of the most captivating places on the globe.

With layers upon layers of history, India is known as a destination of contrasts. Kind people, exceptional cuisine, and innumerable beaches – wherever you decide to go, you can always find thrill and various types of adventure there.

The beauty of India is hidden in its culture. There is a reason it is considered one of the greatest travel destinations in the world – everything in the vibrant country is unique and exotic to learn and take part in. Generally, India is considered a safe country, but it is still important to be cautious. 

By staying connected, your travel experience will be much more comfortable and also safer. We have gathered everything you need to help you find the best prepaid eSIM & SIM card options so that you can travel connected in 3G / 4G / 5G.

Option 1: Find a prepaid eSIM for your trip to India (most straightforward option)

Adventuring in India is unlike any other place in the world. Even for the most experienced travellers, it can be challenging to adapt to the local way of life. To feel more at ease, having an internet connection is a 'must'. 

Although 15 years ago only 4% of the country had internet access, now the situation is much better.  According to statistics (Internet penetration rate in India from 2007 to 2021 - statista.com), in 2021, the percentage has gone up to 47%. The most convenient option to get internet for your trip is to use an eSIM. In India, there are many packages to choose from. We've gathered everything you need to know about virtual SIMs and the best options you can get for India.

What is an eSIM?

Technologies are constantly evolving, and, in the tech world, eSIMs are all the rage now. Simply put, they are a new kind of SIM that are already embedded in your mobile device. You can use an eSIM to access multiple cellular plans at once and change plans without having to swap out physical SIM cards in your phone.

With this new technology, you tap into a mobile network whenever your phone is in range. That means it is much easier to switch carriers, and there is no need to purchase a new SIM when travelling abroad.

Not all devices are compatible with eSIM. You can check if you have a compatible device here.

The best eSIM plans for travelling in India

The cheapest: UPeSIM

The cheapest option is to get the “India eSIM” package from UPeSIM. For $14,74, you will get 6 GB of data for 10 days.

Data

6 GB

Validity10 day(s)

🇼🇳 India

Data only

Network(s) : Network VI India & Airtel (4G, LTE)

$14.09

$2.35/GB
Learn more â€ș

If you are planning on visiting other countries in Asia, a good choice will be the “Asia eSIM 15 countries + China” plan. It is a bit more expensive ($17,58), but it works in other destinations like Japan, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and others, as well.

Data

6 GB

Validity10 day(s)

14 countries

Data only

$16.80

$2.80/GB
Learn more â€ș

Staying longer? Go with Airalo

Travellers who plan to stay in India for a longer period of time should consider purchasing the “Discover Global - 20 GB” package. Provided by Airalo, it includes 20 GB of data that is valid for 180 days. 

This data plan is more expensive ($89), but for a longer trip, the investment is worth it. Depending on your location, with the Airalo data plan, you can enjoy 4G/LTE speed. As its name states, this Airalo plan is also compatible in 128 countries.

Data

20 GB

Validity365 day(s)

123 countries

Data only

Special Offer: 15% OFF

$75.65

$89.00

$3.78/GB
Learn more â€ș

For heavy data users: MTX Connect and its unlimited plan

If you are planning on working during your India trip, MTX Connect offers a package called “Unlimited Daily”, which, as you may guess, includes unlimited data. The downside – the data plan is available only for 1 day. Purchasing this $11,29 package is worth it if you can manage to finish your work and social activities within 24 hours.

Data

Unlimited

Validity1 day(s)

113 countries

Data only

$10.79

Learn more â€ș

Regardless of how many times you visited India, you can always find something new to discover. Before, staying connected in India was quite the challenge, but now, using eSIMs, it is a piece of cake. Compare the different data plans for India available on esims.io and find the right one for you!

Option 2: Buy a prepaid SIM card when you arrive in India (requires Passport for activation)

The typical option to get connectivity in India is to purchase a SIM card at the airport or at SIM card resellers when you land. This option is usually one we would advise against, as most prepaid SIM card you will be purchasing will require that you register your new line through a copy of your passport. This mandatory activation step can take several days ! This means that you will probably have to wait a couple of days before your line (and internet connectivity becomes active), which is completely against the purpose.

If you are fine with the wait, here are the best prepaid data SIM card options, prices and providers that you will find at the main Indian airports.

Airtel

Airtel is a global telecommunications company with operations in 22 countries across Asia and Africa. Airtel offers pre-paid SIM cards for tourists at all major international airports in India, including Chennai International Airport (MAA), Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (BOM), Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL) and Kolkata Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport (CCU).

The following Airtel prepaid SIM cards are available:

  • Airtel Prepaid Plan: Rs 200 - 30 GB data, 300 minutes of national calls, 300 SMSs

  • Airtel Prepaid Plan: Rs 250 - 30 GB data and unlimited calls to any network in India.

Reliance Jio

Reliance Jio is probably the most popular prepaid service provider in India. It offers affordable data packages, with prices starting at just 15 rupees (about 20 cents) per day for unlimited 4G data. You can also opt for its unlimited plan, which costs 999 rupees ($13) per month and includes unlimited calls, texts and 6GB of 4G data per day.

Reliance Jio has a strong network coverage in most parts of India, but not all phones are compatible with its network, so make sure your handset supports it before buying one of their SIM cards.

Vodafone

Vodafone – this service provider offers unlimited 4G data on select plans at various airports across India including Chennai (MAA), Kolkata (CCU), Mumbai (BOM), New Delhi (DEL) and Bengaluru (BLR). You can choose from three different plans based on how much data you want with each offering free incoming calls as well as free roaming across 33 countries worldwide.

Overview of local providers in India

India has four major telecom companies: Airtel, Idea Cellular, Reliance Jio and Vodafone. There are also many smaller providers like BSNL (Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited), Tata Docomo and Telenor that offer prepaid plans with different coverage areas.

The country has two different types of numbering systems: GSM and CDMA. Each provider uses one or both of these systems (except BSNL which only uses GSM). If you want to use your current SIM card from home in India, make sure it's compatible with one of these networks.

3G/4G mobile data is widely available throughout most parts of India except for some remote mountainous regions where it might not work at all or be very slow due to low population density.

The companies with the broadest coverage in India are BSNL, Reliance Communications, Idea Cellular, and Tata DOCOMO. By choosing their eSIM or SIM, you will have a better chance of having a good internet connection. Overall, BSNL is the best choice since it has the biggest coverage. Idea Cellular will work better in Northern cities, as well as Kerala (South).

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